Monday, October 18, 2010


AMC's third stab at a regular series stumbled out of the gate a bit more than its multi-Emmy winning predecessors, but by the end of its inaugural (and hopefully not final) season, it proved that it deserved to be there. Part of the problem was that it had a bit of a creative identity crisis just as it was starting when the creator left after some differences with the showrunner they brought in to help out. The first couple episodes are of almost a completely different series from the rest of the season, intriguing and laced with potential but not of the actual quality of where they ended up going.

So basically, it's a show about a conspiracy, particularly one like in the movies from the 70s. James Badge Dale plays Will, a brilliant but eccentric analyst for API, a company that does intelligence work for the government. One day he discovers a pattern in several newspapers that gets him digging, and before long people around him start dying and he's being watched. It's well-handled but a bit typical, and the show doesn't really begin to shine until it refocuses on the people involved with the conspiracy rather than the conspiracy itself, and also the day to day workings of the think tank Will works for. That might sound a bit dry, but the writers do a great job of making you care about the cast and what they're trying to figure out.

For a while the conspiracy plot feels like a sideshow to the main thrust of the series, but the show does a great job of slowly tying the two threads together for a brilliantly done penultimate episode that brings it all to the forefront, after which the season finale feels more like an afterthought, even though it has a lot of the resolution for the main conspiracy stuff they've built up. Besides Dale's imperfect but interesting performance, Arliss Howard is the real highlight of the cast as Kale, a character who has rightly been compared to Ben from Lost because of his ability to never fully commit to being with or against the hero. You feel like you know a lot more about him by the end of the season, but for all we know it's just a giant magic act. There were a couple things I thought the show did wrong, especially a subplot all season long about the wife of one of the conspirators that never really meets its potential. But otherwise they really did a lot to earn the AMC pedigree, and I hope they get another year to make sense of everything that happened.

Update: No second season. Dang.

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